Archive for June, 2013

June 25, 2013

7 Reasons to Visit Calgary After the Floods

white hats in calgary

Calgarians are known for their community spirit, which has been on display since the disastrous flooding began in Alberta. (Vacay.ca file photo by Julia Pelish)

[Article and poem first published in Vacay.ca on June 22, 2013]

From Beyond the Wake

Water, the menace,
knows no prejudice,
It slaloms, it stampedes,
A cavalry of catastrophe,
Brimming over with haste

Buck up in its face,
Flood back human grace,
A stoic swell,
A dam of pride
unbreakable by fate,
rising mountainous

from beyond the wake

When your friends are in trouble and you’re far away there’s only so much support you are able to give. With CalgaryCanmore and so many other Alberta communities in grief, we wanted to do what we can at Vacay.ca to help. We are trying to ignite a Kickstarter campaign that will complement the Red Cross efforts to aid flood victims in need of financial assistance. But Kickstarter is only based in the United States and requires compliance with American tax law, so we are searching for colleagues south of the border to assist in getting it started. (Email us if you or someone you know can help.) Hey, if Gawker can raise $200,000 for a video of a fat mayor (allegedly) smoking from a crack pipe, there has to be enough human decency to raise the equivalent amount to help good people in need.

In the meantime, as we observe the historic flood and the damage it has done to this marvellous city and its neighbours, I wanted to list the great many things to celebrate about Calgary and southern Alberta. It’s a reminder of why you should visit, once the water has receded and the restoration has begun.

1. The People

When you first hear the term “Western Hospitality,” it’s easy to think it’s a marketing ploy. If you’re a journalist, you will even be keen to disprove the term or at least scrutinize its claim. Travel to Calgary a few times and you realize Western Hospitality is real and it’s real because the people of the city take the idea of welcoming visitors to heart. No city of 1 million people can match Calgary’s level of friendliness and gracious spirit.

2. The Calgary Stampede

Few massive events live up to their hype the way the Stampede does. It is everything you would expect from a giant, two-week-long celebration — and then some, as the free pancake breakfasts, early-morning cocktail parties and late-night music concerts combine to bombard you with incentives to come back. The Stampede is the highest-grossing festival in Canada, bringing in more than $170 million in economic activity each year. Its importance to the community is immense and why everything possible will be done to salvage it this year. [See 2012 Calgary Stampede coverage on Vacay.ca]

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June 13, 2013

Mark McEwan talks about Top Chef Canada’s future

top-chef-canada-viewing-richmond-station

Viewers at Richmond Station watch Mark McEwan as he hosts the finale of Top Chef Canada’s third season. (Julia Pelish/Vacay.ca)

[This report was originally published on Vacay.ca on June 10]

Speak to Mark McEwan about Top Chef Canada and you’ll get the sense the show has many seasons ahead of it.

McEwan, the head judge for the popular Food Network cooking competition, said he is thoroughly enjoying the production, which wrapped up its third season on Monday night.

“I’m just having a blast with it and it’s only going to get better,” McEwan said at Richmond Station, a Toronto restaurant operated by last year’s Top Chef Canada winner, Carl Heinrich.

Richmond Station hosted an invitation-only showing of the Season 3 finale. Tourism Calgary sponsored the event because its city was the setting for the final episode, which crowned Matthew Stowe as the victor. Calgary is also aiming to tout its brigade of outstanding restaurants in hopes of attracting culinary travellers. The city landed eight restaurants on the 2013 Vacay.ca Top 50 Restaurants in Canada Guide, announced last month. It also had a handful of contestants in Season 3 of Top Chef Canada, but the title went to a Vancouverite.

A product development chef for the Cactus Club chain of restaurants in British Columbia, Stowe wins the $100,000 grand prize. He also joins Heinrich and Dale Mackay as Top Chef Canada winners. Of all the Top Chef Canada competitors so far, however, the most successful has been Season 1 runner-up Connie DeSousa, who was at the Richmond Station event. Her CHARCUT restaurant in Calgary has won wide acclaim, and landed at No. 5 on the 2013 Vacay.ca Top 50 list, while DeSousa won the Vacay.ca award for Top Female Chef in the country, chosen by the 34 judges from across the country.

“I just love Connie’s food,” McEwan said. “I really thought she would win Season 1, but in the finale there was just a problem with one dish and that’s what cost her.”

DeSousa was one of the guest judge’s on the Season 3 finale, along with Jann Arden, the Calgary-based singer-songwriter.

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